Temperature & Taste: Know How To Get The Most Out Of Your Vodka
From Freezer to Furnace
When discussing how to properly conduct a vodka tasting, we hit on the subject of temperature and how it affects taste. This is true with almost all food and drink, but especially so with vodka, because as a ‘neutral’ spirit it doesn’t have much to hide behind. There are no shortage of articles online that tout the benefits of drinking it as cold as possible so it ‘tastes the best’, but this is largely missing the point. Ice cold vodka may be the easiest to take as a shot, but it doesn’t necessarily do the spirit justice if you’re looking to experience it’s true flavor and mouthfeel. So for those that want to dive into their favorite spirit and experience the entire scope of its taste, here’s a quick primer on how temperature plays a role.
Out Of The Freezer
Most people will come across this method of consumption, stating that vodka at its coldest and most syrupy is the only way to drink it. Though many people associate this with Eastern European cultures and assume it’s now they consume it, this simply isn’t the case.
When ice cold, much of the perceived flavor improvement is due to the deadening effect on the alcoholic ‘burn’. As the liquid chills our throats, we experience less of those alcohol notes after swallowing. Though this may be ideal for taking a myriad of shots, you’re missing out on a lot of the flavors that make each and every vodka unique. There are benefits to trying vodka ice cold though; namely that it’s the best way to assess the true texture of the spirit. Experts call what happens when you chill a spirit to the extreme ‘tightening’ and the result is that you get a better sense of how the liquid coats your mouth, whether it’s syrupy, oily, or slack (remains highly liquid).
Out Of The Fridge
For many experts on vodka tasting, this is generally accepted as the best ‘middle ground’ for experiencing both the taste and texture of a given spirit. The alcoholic edge is slightly subdued, but a complete sense of mouth-feel, texture, and taste are still able to be easily perceived. You can still discern texture elements like oiliness or creaminess, but the spirit will be warm enough that notes of the base fermenting ingredient will present themselves for appraisal.
This is where you’ll experience the most alcoholic warmth (read: burn) from your vodka, but also the most of its natural flavors. Room temperature is also the best way to pair vodka with food, since you aren’t deadening your taste buds with shot after shot of icy spirit.
Though less common in North America, consuming warmed vodka is surprisingly common in many northern cultures. This stems largely from it’s antiseptic properties and use as a tonic against maladies like the common cold. Though not necessarily ideal for tasting, a shot of warmed vodka when you’re feeling under the weather sure beats sucking on a sugar-loaded lozenge any day.